Distribution and movements of Alaska-breeding Steller's Eiders in the nonbreeding periodby Philip D. Martin, David C. Douglas, Tim Obritschkewitsch, Shannon Torrence

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Distribution and movements of Alaska-breeding Steller's Eiders in the nonbreeding period

Author(s): Philip D. Martin, David C. Douglas, Tim Obritschkewitsch, and Shannon Torrence

Source: The Condor, 117(3):341-353.

Published By: Cooper Ornithological Society

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1650/CONDOR-14-165.1

URL: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1650/CONDOR-14-165.1

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Volume 117, 2015, pp. 341–353

DOI: 10.1650/CONDOR-14-165.1


Distribution and movements of Alaska-breeding Steller’s Eiders in the nonbreeding period

Philip D. Martin,1 David C. Douglas,2* Tim Obritschkewitsch,1,a and Shannon Torrence1 1 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA 2 U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, Juneau, Alaska, USA a Current address: ABR Inc., Environmental Research & Services, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA * Corresponding author: ddouglas@usgs.gov

Submitted October 16, 2014; Accepted April 1, 2015; Published June 10, 2015


Steller’s Eiders (Polysticta stelleri) that breed in Alaska, USA, are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species

Act (ESA), yet the degree to which these individuals segregate during the nonbreeding period from conspecifics that nest in Russia is unknown. Likewise, very little is known about the timing of use and distribution of autumn migration routes, stopover sites, and molting and wintering areas by the Alaska-breeding population. To address this information need, we implanted 14 Steller’s Eiders with satellite transmitters in 2000 and 2001 at their primary Alaskan breeding grounds near Barrow. We found no evidence for segregation of the Alaska-breeding population in midwinter because locations were well-distributed along the Alaska Peninsula, congruent with prevailing knowledge about the wintering distribution of Steller’s Eiders that breed in Russia. During the wing molt, from late August to early October, 7 of 13 individuals used Kuskokwim Shoals, corroborating the importance of this area and its designation as critical habitat under the ESA. Steller’s Eiders are generally described as preferring shallow waters ,10 m deep, but our winter tracking data clearly documented occupancy of deeper offshore waters. Steller’s Eiders frequently used up to 30-m deep water almost exclusively at night during winter. We speculate that nighttime occupancy of deeper water habitats may be for resting and/or for consumption of zooplankton species, such as euphausiids, that are abundant and well known for their nocturnal vertical migrations in the water column.

Keywords: Steller’s Eider, Endangered Species Act, threatened, marine habitat, satellite telemetry, Alaska, distribution, movements

Distribucio´n y movimientos durante el perı´odo no reproductivo de individuos de Polysticta stelleri que se reproducen en Alaska


Los individuos de Polysticta stelleri que se reproducen en Alaska esta´n listados como amenazados por la Ley de

Especies en Peligro (LEP) de EEUU. Sin embargo, se desconoce el grado de segregacio´n de estos individuos de los individuos que anidan en Rusia durante el perı´odo no reproductivo. Del mismo modo, se sabe muy poco del momento y la distribucio´n de las rutas migratorias de oton˜o, de los sitios de parada y de las a´reas de muda e invernada de la poblacio´n reproductiva de Alaska. Para obtener esta informacio´n, colocamos transmisores satelitales a 14 individuos de P. stelleri en 2000 y 2001 en sus sitios primarios de reproduccio´n en Alaska cerca de Barrow. No encontramos evidencia de segregacio´n de la poblacio´n reproductiva de Alaska a mediados del invierno, debido a que las localizaciones de los individuos marcados estuvieron ampliamente distribuidas a lo largo de la Penı´nsula de Alaska, lo que es congruente con el conocimiento previo sobre la distribucio´n invernal de los individuos de P. stelleri que se reproducen en Rusia. Durante la muda alar, desde fines de agosto hasta inicios de octubre, siete de 13 individuos usaron el a´rea de Kuskokwim Shoals, corroborando la importancia de esta a´rea y su designacio´n como un ha´bitat crı´tico bajo la LEP. P. stelleri es descripta generalmente como una especie que prefiere aguas someras de ,10 m de profundidad, pero nuestros registros de seguimiento de invierno muestran claramente la ocupacio´n de aguas ma´s profundas. P. stelleri uso´ con frecuencia aguas de hasta 30 m de profundidad durante el invierno casi exclusivamente por la noche. Especulamos que la ocupacio´n nocturna de aguas ma´s profundas puede ser para descansar y/o para el consumo de especies del zooplancton, como los eufa´sidos, que son abundantes y muy conocidos por las migraciones verticales nocturnas que realizan en la columna de agua.

Palabras clave: Alaska, amenazada, distribucio´n, ha´bitat marino, Ley de Especies en Peligro, movimientos,

Polysticta stelleri, telemetrı´a satelital

Q 2015 Cooper Ornithological Society. ISSN 0004-8038, electronic ISSN 1938-5129

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